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Slack wants to experiment with always-on audio

Where once you may have had a colleague approach your desk, 2020 means that you might be getting a ping from Slack (or whichever IM service you prefer) when a colleague needs to grab your attention.

While we use Slack ourselves here at Hypertext, there’s no denying that receiving a message breaks your concentration, and forces you to acknowledge the message.

But Slack is experimenting with something we’d rather it didn’t: always-on audio.

Ahead of its Frontier conference on Wednesday, Slack outlined a number of experiments it is conducting including the aforementioned audio feature.

“Imagine if you could talk live with whoever is available on your team—not scheduled, but totally spontaneous, like sticking your head into an office to get an answer, or starting a hallway conversation that turns into a brainstorm,” Slack wrote in a blog post.

“An audio option in channels is another way we’re thinking that we can bring back that all-important creative flow, no matter where you work,” it added.

Now the ability to launch into an audio call with a user already exists so why is there this need for always-on audio.

The short answer to our minds is monitoring whether employees are working or not.

Since COVID-19 forced many countries into a lockdown, employee monitoring has ramped up significantly and many employees aren’t a fan of being monitored while working in their own homes.

And that’s not even mentioning the noise that will come through with always-on audio. As I write this I have a fan running, dogs barking and the annoying tones of my mechanical keyboard. How long do you think my colleagues would last with that cacophony going off? I’m going to say five minutes.

But another experimental feature does look rather interesting.

Asynchronous video would allow everybody in a team to film a short video that can be used as part of a meeting. Videos can be filmed ahead of time and viewed when a person has the time to.

“This gives people the information and updates they need, with a measure of flexibility that is usually missing in today’s setup,” Slack wrote.

However, as cool as this sounds, it misses the point of a meeting to our mind as colleagues are meant to engage with each other, ask questions and make suggestions. Having pre-recorded video just seems like it will require additional meetings to clear up miscommunications.

Of course, neither of these features is guaranteed to become a part of Slack so here’s hoping I don’t need to listen to my colleagues typing all day just in case I need to ask a question.

[Source – Slack]

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